11/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Clean-cut and minimally pierced—earlobes only—members of the Fort Zumwalt North High School marching band and color guard of O'Fallon, Mo., seem unlikely rebels. "Most of the band are straight-A kids," says Adrianne Casagrand, 16. "We're the nerds." But in a flashback to an angrier age, she and 16 other students are suing school authorities over their free-speech right to play an instrumental version of the 1967 Jefferson Airplane hit "White Rabbit" as part of a medley of '60s tunes at football games.
The controversy began when a parent showed the song's lyrics (notably "One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small") to school superintendent Bernard DuBray. In September, DuBray, 51, ordered the piece deleted from the medley because, he says, "It is an anthem for the drug culture." Immediately, "the kids all went running to the Internet to find out the words," says one band mother. Composer Grace Slick, 59, insists she never meant to glorify drugs but was merely "paraphrasing Alice in Wonderland," wherein Alice "takes at least five mind-altering chemicals."
While DuBray has succeeded for now in censoring "Rabbit," he may be less thrilled to learn that he has turned on a flock of new fans to Slick's music. "Now I have two Jefferson Airplane CDs," says baritone horn player David Graham, 16. "And I listen to them all the time."